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tv   This Week in Northern California  PBS  July 23, 2011 1:00pm-1:30pm PDT

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captioning by vitac, underwritten by fireman's fund >> belva: the latest evidence shows the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old man in san francisco's bay view district they have been self-inflicted. following a week of anger directed at police. hundreds of inmates wind down their three-week hunger strike against harsh conditions in isolation units at pelican bay state prison. the state is sued for its plan to redistribute billions of dollars of redevelopment funds. and a conversation with san francisco superior court presiding judge, katherine feinstein, about deep budget cuts to california's court system. coming up next.
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>> belva: good evening. i'm belva davis. welcome to "this week in northern california." joining me tonight on our news panel are michael montgomery, reporter for kqed news and "california watch." josh richman, legal and political affairs reporter for "the oakland tribune." and joshua johnson, morning newscaster for kqed news. joshua, let's start by talking about what are some of the concerns that have been raised
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around this whole affair and why is there so much upheaval over it? >> the concerns seem to fall into two basic buckets. one has to do with the actual actions of the police in general toward people in the bay view. the other has to do with the environment in the bay view and conditions that may have given rise to what happened saturday. let me set up what happened saturday. we can go from there. san francisco police say that they were making an investigation into a young man who came into the back of the muni t third line around third and oak dale. that young man apparently took off running. police pursued them. they say he fired indiscriminately, over shoulder, perhaps over his arm, back in the direction of the police. they fired back and then returned fire. it was around that time we begin to see youtube videos as what we now know as 19-year-old kenneth harding, parolee from washington state, lying on the grand in the third street corridor with an angry crowd of people amassing around him.
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it's a grisly video. the medical examiner's office says the bullet they retrieved from his head is not the right size to come from an sfpd weapon. kenneth harden's right hand had gun residue on it which would support the notion he fired at the police first before they fired back at him. all of that it seems has not calmed the anger among those in the bay view who say this is one more example of what they consider to be a long history of widespread generalized police brutality, not just from sfpd but pretty much from police in general as they see it. >> belva: you explained the video was pretty gruesome. it shows the young man bleeding on the ground and officers surrounding that area and screaming people around that. why did the police officers decide that no one should approach this man? because they thought he had a gun still? >> well, you know, often in terms of law enforcement response, there are jurisdictional issues. there are certain things even paramedics are not allowed to do
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if they don't have proper training. the law enforcement community would probably tell you because a person is wounded doesn't mean they're dangerous. a cornered animal can still fight. just the idea he's on the ground bleeding doesn't mean he doesn't still pose a threat and the law enforcement experts we spoke to this week said exactly the same thing. >> no gun was recovered at the scene, right. >> haven't found the gun that matches the bullet. they found a gun. chief greg has said they have yet to find the gun. >> how have the police tried to deal with this this week? >> well, they tried to deal with it by coming directly to the community. there was a town hall meeting wednesday night at the bay view opera house a block away from where the shooting happened. chief sir who was the captain in the bay view before he became the chief attended the meeting. supervisor malia attended. david chu was there. the idea was to allow both sides to talk but it quickly dissolved into chaos. >> we have videotape from that night. just showing how the crowd was
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respo responding. you shot it, joshua. >> the microphone instead of everybody yelling. >> yeah, the only thing i would modify from that is it wasn't everybody. it was a very loud concerted crowd of people determined to just take over the meeting. the minute the chief sir took the mike and began to explain the events i just explained to you, a chorus of boos began. enough people rushed the podium to derail the entire conversation. the opera house was packed, way past the gills. of people who really wanted to hear him. as soon as that core of people who were so mad and determined not to trust anything the chief said rushed the podium, the rest of the crowd began to file out within about an hour, even the chief left and by then the meeting was over. >> i want to ask you about the role of the media. broadly. people with cameras. we've seen lots of youtube videos. what impact has that had on the perceptions of what happened? >> if you go on to youtube and google kenneth harding or if you
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google oscar grant or derek jones, names of the controversial police involved shootings over the last year or so, you'll find videos of the event andited by other people who have enough wherewithal to buy a tripod and camera and mike and edit it themselves. there's this whole other thread of conversation that's taking place on digital media among black people who will post on their own. they're not going to come to me and say, oh, please, come tell my story. they're going to go tell it themselves. youtube, today, i got into a youtube debate over whether or not you can fire a .38 bullet from a gun and maybe they dok doctored the gun. in terms of trying to reach people who have decided we are not going to listen. we waited long enough. we're going to have the conversation among ourselves. that's part of the challenge the chief is going to have to get over. >> belva: talk about the demonstrati demonstrations. who are they?
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there were demonstrations who followed this. who took part? where did they happen? >> there have been a couple demonstrati demonstrations. there was one monday afternoon that happened near the opera house which seemed mostly composed of bay view rez dsiden watching. a number of people monday and wednesday, mission deloris where there were so many arrests, have not been people from the bay view. there were organizers at monday's protest, local business leaders i met were leaning over to me. i said, who are these people? they said, i thought you knew. they were parachuting in. sfpd says they arrested 47 people, only a handful of them were from san francisco. i believe only one of the san franciscans was from the bay view. there's a lot of nonspecific anger at the police playing out now. >> belva: what's the next step? what happens now? >> no one really knows for sure. the organizers who put together the meeting at the bay view opera house want to try again. they're not sure exactly when. san francisco mayor ed lee was in the bay view today. he didn't answer questions about the shooting, has yet to go on
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the record about it. he told one of the local activists he would arrange a meeting at some point in the future. won't be immediately. he's going to be in d.c. on monday with the giants meeting the president. >> belva: this is a new controversy. michael, we're going to talk to you about one that is almost as old as i am. and that is what's happening at pelican bay in terms of the hunger strike that was going on there. >> and it's winding down. there may be a few inmates still refusing food in other prisons. at pelican bay the strike is effectively over. it was quite a dramatic turn of events this week. on wednesday we had medical officials from the department of corrections talking about a handful of inmates showing early signs of starvation 2 1/2 weeks into the hunger strike. by thursday we got news from the department of corrections that the strike leaders at pelican bay in the security housing unit, that's the isolation unit, that they had agreed to call off the strike. it moved very quickly. we now know the department
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officia officials, their top official had gone to crescent city to meet with strikers who the department says are dangerous gang leaders and they had reached some kind of an agreement. the department says it gave no concessions. the strikers and their supporters say the department made promises to change policies about gangs and about who gets locked down in these isolation units. it's a little unclear what was really agreed to, if anything, and we're waiting to get, you know, a little more clarity on that. >> belva: what -- is there a reason why there's such a wide gap between what those who support those on hunger strike say and that which the department is saying? >> well, i think like any negotiation there were some understanding that there needed to be some kind of a saving way to get out of this situation. the inmates say they have been given an agreement to have
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winter caps, calendars, one photo a year from their families. possibly telephone calls. it doesn't seem much to us. for someone who's been in isolation for years, maybe decades, it's a big deal. what i think is important, they got a senior official in the department of corrections to travel up and to meet with them, you know, as equals in a sense. >> sort of an unprecedented show of interracial and even inter-gang unity, right? >> well, this is quite striking. i've been in these facilities. they're quite divided in terms of the racial and ethnic groups and in terms of people in the gangs. to get inmates to come together on an action, a protest action not just at pelican bay but to see it spread to 13 other facilities, that's a show of strength and show of unit. perhaps folks in the department were a little bit nervous about that. >> can you describe -- you described this to me on kqed news about it a couple weeks ago. these units are almost -- they
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almost defy belief, the way they're operated and the way they're composed. what are these units actually like on the inside? >> keep in mind pelican bay was opened in 1989, an era when the supermack prisons were proliferating around the country for the worst of the worst. so they were built in an era when rehabilitation wasn't in the mission at the department. they're windowless. inmates simply do not see the outside world in their usual, you know, daily routine except on television. so it's a very eery atmosphere. it's antiseptic. the cells are painted white. inmates get out of the cells an hour to shower and exercise. it's a windowless exercise pen. the thing that's eery is how quiet it is in there. there's not a lot of sounds. the inmates don't make a lot of noise. it's very strange -- >> as a rule. >> as a rule of respect to others. it's a very strange, strange, strange thing, but you don't hear yells or screams or
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anything like that. >> belva: talk about some of the other prisons where this has taken effect. how many people overall are we talking? >> we have varying numbers on that. at one point, there were about 6,000 inmates refusing food. how long they were refusing food for is open to debate. at its peak it was 13 other prisons. the core strikers were at prisons where we have security housing units. pelican bay, tehachapi and corcoran. they had their core support. they have a list of demands about overhauling how the units are run and why and how inmates get in and how they get out. the big plaint among inmates and their supporters is to get out you have to betray the gang or have to snitch. for a gang member that's dangerous. if you're not in the gang and you're expected to renounce the gang, you're in something of a catch-22. >> belva: so where does this go now? with both sides saying they haven't -- one saying there was
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a give and the other said there wasn't. >> the department has said they're conducting a system -- a widespread comprehensive assessment of their policies in terms of gangs and these security housing units. they haven't said they will make any major changes but they're doing an assessment. we found out this week they made an assessment four years ago. there were recommendations. they haven't been imp llementim. we have to wait and see. >> belva: josh, your story has nothing to do with prisons or gangs but the one topic in this state that's hottest. money and deficits. >> money, money, money. the league of california cities and the california redevelopment agency association, excuse me, as widely expected filed a lawsuit this week challenging the segment of the state budget deal that calls for either eliminating local redevelopment agencies or relocating a lot of
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their money up into sacramento so it can be pushed out for other purposes. they say that this budget plan basically violates prop 22 which the voters just approved last no as a barrier against the state using local funds to balance its budget. the state, of course, feel s differently. the state senate president protem said this is perfectly legal, we're balancing redevelopment with public priorities including education. the brown administration's finance department said that prop 22 only dealt with a very narrow issue of what the state can or can't do with property tax increment money and it didn't address this broader fundamental question of whether redevelopment agencies should even exist. redevelopment agencies are different things in different places of the state. they have a lot of different functions from helping fund stadiums, to supporting new business development, paying some city salaries under certain
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circumstances, but the fact is they've become so sintegral to lot of local governments. just ripping that money away is something that the cities just can't count. >> belva: one of the things is the redevelopment money supposedly is used to create institutions or facilities that will benefit the local government in some way. so it means losing the money and not getting future benefits? >> it means losing that money. basically what the state is trying to do is take that money away by getting rid of these redevelopment agencies. taking it back to sacramento and then giving to the cities as the state's share of local government and education funding. so instead of having money coming from two sources for these local, you know, for local government and education and stuff, now it's only going to just come from one place and not be anymore. so it's a loss to these localities. >> we have realignment on the one hand. is this alignment? >> maybe it's reverse realign
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realignme realignment. i don't know what you'd call it. maybe the courts will decide what you'd call this. but, you know, oakland mayor gene quan, mayors got together in oakland this week and said this is not going to stand. oakland, modesto, supported a lawsuit. they're pushing the supreme court to which this lawsuit was filed directly, to at least put a stay on this part of the budget by august 15th while it decides the rest of the case on the merit so it doesn't go forward any sooner than that. >> belva: what about the fact that regions or cities are being asked to pay a certain amount of money, i guess, to stay in the redevelopment business? is that it? >> you could call it a shakedown i suppose. if you were so inclined to do so. that's certainly the way the league cities and like-minded people would call it. the brown administration's position is we only have so much public money in this state to go around. that benefits of a lot of these redevelopment agencies are shaky
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at best, that there's some evidence that the job creation they've put a claim to isn't really stacked up. there was a survey that just came out yesterday, thursday, from the "los angeles times" university of southern california that showed californians when they're actually briefed on what these agencies have and haven't done, they're actually okay with some of that money being taken away from them and going to the state to help with the state budget deficit. >> refresh my memory. is this one of those things governor brown told the state, if we don't make these tax extension, we're going to have to cut super, super deep? is this part of the plan? >> part of the deal that resulted from not having any new revenue. you do have to look at it as a part of that. and certainly that's still something i'm sure the governor would like to be able to remedy next year, but this is -- unless the supreme court stays, this would go through a lot sooner. >> belva: can you think after any project that would not happen without -- >> oh, i think you'd see job losses, you'd see a halt to various redevelopment, you know,
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business development projects in cities in every corner of this state if this were to happen. >> belva: are cities pretty much together on this? >> yeah. >> belva: san francisco is not part of that lawsuit. >> i've not found any cities so far that are happy about their redevelopment nomoney going awa. >> belva: i could say not. i guess there's no good reason that's been given by san francisco for not joining in the lawsuit? >> no. i wouldn't be surprised if a brief gets files later down the line. >> belva: okay, josh, thanks very much. california's court system is facing an unprecedented $350 million of cuts to help close the state's deficit. san francisco superior court is expected to be one of the hardest hit. the court is preparing to lay off 40% of its employees and decrease services to the public. earlier today i spoke with presiding judge katherine feinstein about the impact. well, welcome, judge feinstein.
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why don't you start by telling us what and why is san francisco in such a unique position in this whole battle over budgets for the court? >> i think san francisco is the first of several courts that are going to be confronting this exact same problem. i think we're the first to go. and the reason is that throughout the year and through last year, the governor and the legislature have come in and taken huge chunks from the judicial branch budget to attempt to solve the state's budget crisis. this year that left us with a $13.75 million deficit from an operating budget that had already been reduced from the mid $90 million to about $80 million. and it was the final blow for us. >> belva: so what is the effect
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that you expect to happen, if money doesn't materialize from somewhere? >> if money doesn't materialize from somewhere, we have sent 60-day layoff notices to 200 of our employees, and i should include that we already are short 18% of our normal workforce by means of attrition. losing that staff will result in us having to close 25 out of our 63 courtrooms. >> belva: my. that's an awful lot. >> it is. 40%. >> belva: right. and so that's how many employees and how much longer, if that should happen, would it mean to people trying to get their cases before the court? >> well, it will have little to no effect on those cases which we are either constitutionally or statutorily mandated to handle. we will abide by speedy trial rights. we will abide by preference statutes. anything that mandates that a
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case be handled in an expeditious fashion, we will follow. where i think the pain will be felt is in general civil litigation, in family law matters. i think you can expect incredibly long lines to wait to file a document and a very long time for your civil case to proceed through our civil trial system. >> belva: can san francisco have done things any differently with the condition that the state has been in for the last few years? it's been cut, cut, cut. was there any way to avoid such a big chunk of people going? >> well, we have undertaken mandatory furloughs. as i said, we have 18% vacancy in staff by attrition. we have done court closure days.
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we've done pretty much everything that one can do short of layoff. probably the error that we made was we decided to spend our reserves rather than lay off people last year. and hindsight is 20/20. the people could have been laid off last year and maybe we would have been in somewhat better shape, but fortunately our folks were employed another year and access to justice was guaranteed for another year. >> belva: today the judicial council that's supposed to look out for these kinds of problems met. you were there. what did you tell them? >> i told them three things. i told them that personally i was disappointed that their mission and the mission that they reiterate to anyone and everyone is that they will provide support and service to the trial courts had not been
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fulfilled. i told them that i thought it was imperative that they look at the two biggest programs that are draining millions of dollars from trial court funds. one being an elaborate case management computer system that has so far used $410 million of trial court funds and has proven not to be very effective. it's not in full use in any county, and bits and pieces of it are in use in only seven counties. and i suggested that perhaps it was time to recognize an error was made, cut their losses and move on and restore that money to the trial court trust fund. >> belva: that's a pretty tough recommendation that you're making there. how did they receive your remarks? do you think there will be any changes from where you are now coming out of this?
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>> probably not. >> belva: was there a discussion of the possibility even? >> well, there was discussion of what they are going to do about construction projects and about this large computer project. however, they seem usually to rubber stamp whatever the staff recommendation is, and i expect that there will be a small am of backfill from a combination of sources. i don't think that it will be sufficient to significantly alter our situation. >> belva: overall, what effect do you think this is going to have on the justice system in this county? >> well, i think it's going to have a terrible effect and going to have a terrible effect because it will mainly effect the civil justice system and we are an epicenter for civil litigation. we have very sophisticated judges. we do a lot of civil litigation. we are the venue of choice in
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most cases where people may choose to -- or have the right to file in any california county. and that will no longer be true. and i think economically san francisco is home to 14,000 attorneys and they will surely suffer. >> belva: well, i want to thank you, judge feinstein, for joining us. >> thank you. >> belva: josh, you also follow this story. the judicial council met and made some decisions. what were they? >> well, judge feinstein's fears came to pass almost exactly as she said. the judicial council voted unanimously to go with the budget it had planned on. they rejected calls to cut the bureaucracy deeper in order to spare the trial courts. the spending on the computerized case management system that she talked about is suspended for one year, but the council is considering going back to it in subsequent years. all of those deep cuts she talked about are going to
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happen. >> belva: okay, josh, thanks. thanks to every one of you here at the table for joining me tonight. please visit for ongoing coverage from kqed news on the bay view story and past stories on pelican bay. i'm belva davis. good night. 
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